When inflation helps fight food waste

Do not throw money or food out the window. Extraordinarily high inflation suffered by France in recent months has led to a general tightening of the belt which is not encouraging, both for individuals and for communities. Everyone is looking for solutions on their own scale to save pennies. Solutions that sometimes update aberrations that we didn’t care about before. This is how several French cities kill two birds with one stone against inflation and the food waste.

To cope with the increase in their operating costs, communities, in particular town halls, have the possibility of using the tax lever. An option that elected officials are reluctant to implement, however, so as not to penalize already suffering households. So they have to find some strings to pull to save on all fronts, including meals served to children in school canteens. In Hazebrouck, in the North, supplier prices have increased by 10 to 15% in recent months. In Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf, in Seine-Maritime, the increase in the canteen budget was 30,000 euros last spring. “In a normal year, we could have absorbed it, but with 800,000 euros of energy increase, it was not possible”, recognizes Laurent Bonnaterre, the mayor.

Reduce portions or increase prices

In Hazebrouck, the city decided last November to reduce the menus served to school children. An initiative that Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf had already taken a few months earlier: “In the steering committee, with the parents of pupils, we presented two solutions: reduce the components of the canteen menus or increase the price”, explains the Norman mayor. The first solution was unanimous according to him.

The menus have thus gone from 5 to 4 components, making the starter or the dessert jump from one day to the next. “We don’t starve the children, the quantities remain the same. It is the fact of playing on the choice that lowers the prices of our service provider,” says Laurent Bonnaterre. And while working on the subject, a fact jumped out in the eyes of elected officials: food waste. “For the canteens alone, we were throwing away around 14 tonnes of food per year, 21 kg per child. It’s huge for a small town like ours, ”laments the elected official.

“Less food ends up in the trash”

It has therefore been four months since the children of Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf have been subject to this new regime and the feedback seems rather positive. “We don’t have any fixed data yet, says the mayor, but canteen staff confirm that much less food ends up in the trash. In terms of finance, this measure made it possible to “contain the increase” to 6,000 euros instead of the 30,000 euros in figures.

If the reduction of canteen menus has been able to spill ink and rain criticism, it can nevertheless not be done just anyhow. Because anyway the meal composition is framed, regulated and standardized by National Education. The official bulletin of the ministry also provides for meals with 4 or 5 components whose weight varies according to the food. Thus, the city of Toulouse had already reduced the rations served from the start of the 2021 school year, going from 5 to 4 components and from 450 to 350 g. At the time, inflation was not the reason given, the idea being to reduce food waste. The result, however, had fact reacts Agathe Roby, an elected LFI from the municipal opposition, who denounced “ridiculous plates” and the recurring absence of starches. “Nothing like that with us, welcomes the Norman mayor. The parents even supported us in front of the cameras. »

When inflation helps fight food waste